B20 Presents "Green Growth" Recommendations to G20 Leaders

Zachary Hurwitz

The business sectors of the G20 countries – known as the B20 – presented their policy recommendations today for "green growth" at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. The B20 recommendations include some forward-looking steps, including a recommendation to partially eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and to price carbon. However, the recommendations endorse a regressive, business-as-usual approach to hydropower that would cause huge impacts on freshwater river ecosystems.

Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico, today said that "the only kind of growth possible is green growth," referring to the impossibility of creating economic growth without making "green" profitable. Yet the B20's recommendations point to building large water and energy storage infrastructure to increase agricultural and industrial commodity output. By promoting large dam storage, hardly a cutting-edge technology, the B20 has made it clear that it is more concerned about protecting investment returns than it is about protecting the world's dwindling freshwater ecosystems.  

The B20 recommendations also outline the creation of a new association of development finance banks that could enable greater private sector involvement in "green growth" by mobilizing public subsidies. The International Development Finance Club (IDFC) is composed of 19 national development banks whose total assets are valued at US$2.1 trillion. The association includes some of the world's financiers of large dams, such as China Development Bank and BNDES. The group has already proposed a partnership to support the creation of a private sector facility for the Green Climate Fund, in order to channel climate finance into specific programs and projects.  

The B20 recommendations, including this IDFC proposal for the Green Climate Fund, cause great concern that grandfathered mega-projects that developers have wanted to build for decades, such as the Grand Inga Complex, will make their way into the projects that could receive finance from the Green Climate Fund.  As a result, there is real risk that the Green Climate Fund could finance business-as-usual water and energy projects rather than mobilize finance for cutting-edge, progressive technologies.

So far at the G20 Summit, proposals for "growth" are trumping proposals for "green."   In contrast with Felipe Calderon, I'm not convinced that two of the challenges facing the world today-- the global economic crisis and the disappearance of freshwater species and ecosystems-- can be reconciled.